At his Monday press conference, Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien offered a simple statement about his goalie, Carey Price, who will miss the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals after suffering an injury in Game 1 against the New York Rangers.
We just lost our best player.
“He didn’t add anything on to that statement. There was no addendum. There was no clarification,” NBC Sports NHL analyst Mike Halford said on The MoJo Show. “(He just said) they lost their best player in Carey Price – and that’s exactly what he was, especially at the tail end of that Boston series.”
Montreal trailed Boston 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but Price allowed just one goal in Games 6 and 7 combined.
“You’re talking about a very valuable part of that team,” Halford said.
And now he’s gone. Price was injured in the second period of Montreal’s 7-2 loss to New York on Saturday – this after getting taken out, fans hope unintentionally, by Rangers forward Chris Kreider.
Price had a .919 save percentage, a 2.35 goals-against average and one shutout in 12 playoff games this postseason. He was replaced in Game 2 by Dustin Tokarski.
“It really sounds like they’re going to try and go throw a wild card, a bit of a curve ball, in net and hope that New York’s lack of video (and) lack of familiarity with Tokarski will (somehow work),” Halford said.
So far, it hasn’t. The Rangers beat Montreal, 3-1, in Game 2 on Monday. Max Pacioretty gave Montreal a 1
-0 lead on an unassisted goal less than seven minutes into the game, but Ryan McDonagh tied the score just 17 seconds later. Rick Nash followed with a goal late in the first period, while Martin St. Louis scored a power-play goal in the second.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist took it from there.
Halford thought Montreal would win Game 2.
“There’s the desperation factor because they can’t lose both games in Montreal,” he theorized. “They can’t go down 0-2 after getting home ice advantage.”
Aside from desperation, there was also anger. The Canadiens felt that Kreider’s hit on Price was malicious at worst and reckless at best.
Still, talent is talent – and Tokarski doesn’t have as much as Price. Not by a long shot.
“The reason that Tokarski was in the AHL all year was because he wasn’t ready for the NHL – and he’s certainly not ready for the Eastern Conference Finals,” Halford said. “So I think that’ll catch up to them.”
Halford called Montreal’s 7-2 loss in Game 1 “terrible across the board,” adding that you can’t “fritter away home ice advantage by blowing (your first two) games.”
If Montreal were to somehow come back and win the series, Halford thinks it would be one of the greatest stories in NHL playoff history.
“But I think it’s an extreme long shot,” he said.
In the West, meanwhile, the Kings are back in the conference finals for the third straight year and trail the Blackhawks 1-0 in a meeting of the last two Stanley Cup champions.
“I’m kind of running out of superlatives to throw at the Blackhawks,” Halford said. “The one thing that continually gets me is all their star players seem to have an innate ability to show up in the big moments. We just came off a series where we watched Pittsburgh and (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin not to do anything in big moments in that Rangers series.”
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, however, have scored clutch goal after clutch goal in the playoffs.
“These guys show up time after time,” Halford said. “It’s their same stars, their same faces, over and over – really for the last four years.”